Pigs culled and milk thrown away amid labour shortages

7 October 2021

Industry bodies have warned hundreds of pigs have been culled and milk is being thrown away due to labour shortages.

The National Pig Association said 600 pigs had been culled due to a shortage of abattoir workers, while Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers said up to 40,000 litres of milk had been discarded due to the shortage of HGV drivers.

The NPA warned in August that pigs were under threat after it found some abattoirs were operating 20% below capacity.

The pork industry has been heavily impacted by rising labour and commodity costs, with the NPA estimates producers have been losing around £25 on every pig produced this year.

The NPA has called on government to introduce temporary visas to allow international workers to plug the gaps in the pork industry, like those offered to poultry workers. 

Meanwhile, milk’s short shelf life means even small delays in delivery times can make it unsellable.

Sky News reported some farmers have had to throw away up to 40,000 litres of milk due to the driver shortage, which is estimated to stand between 70,000-100,000 drivers. 

Peter Alvis, chairman of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, told Sky News most farmers do not make a profit on their milk, and any supply chain disruptions are quickly felt by farmers. 

He said: "I don't think things with global supply chains have settled down again after the pandemic, and the shortage of HGV drivers is having quite a large impact.”

CO2 shortages had threatened further culls of Britain’s pigs as CO2 is used in the human slaughter of livestock, but the British Meat Processors Association said government intervention to maintain Britain’s CO2 supplies looked to be enough to pull the meat sector “back from the brink”.

A spokesperson from the BMPA said: “At the moment it looks like the action government took to alleviate the CO2 crisis might be able to pull us back from the brink, and we think it could enable the CO2 market to re-set and re-establish supplies over the coming weeks. 

“We now need a similar intervention to provide short term support to avert a full-blown labour crisis in the meat industry by temporarily relaxing immigration rules to allow our industry to source workers from outside the UK. This would give us the breathing room needed to enact the longer term but much more challenging plan to develop a bigger homegrown workforce.”

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